Practicing retirement — Why wait?

Alan Spector is an author, business consultant, baseball player, traveler, and grandfather.  He has authored four published books, including, with coauthor Keith Lawrence, Your Retirement Quest: 10 Secrets for Creating and Living a Fulfilling Retirement (www.YourRetirementQuest.com).  Alan and Keith conduct workshops across the country helping prospective and current retirees plan the non-financial aspects of their retirement—to make the rest of their lives the best of their lives. 

By Alan Spector

What do Sam Snead, Mahatma Gandhi, Yogi Berra and Arnold Palmer have in common?  They each understood the value of practice.

“Practice puts brains in your muscle.”  Sam Snead

“An ounce of practice is worth a ton of preaching.”  Mahatma Gandhi

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“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice.  In practice there is.”  — Yogi Berra

“The more I practice, the luckier I get.”  — Arnold Palmer

Each of us fundamentally gets the concept of the value of practice.  OK, I’ll wait just a bit before going on while you think about what Yogi said.  Ready now?

But very few people think about the value of practicing retirement.  If you are not yet retired, this is an opportunity for you.  Here’s what practicing retirement is, and then here’s why you might want to consider doing it.

The idea is to think about and plan for (see my earlier post about retirement life planning) what you want to be doing in retirement.  What have you been putting off, just waiting for when you have more time?  Is it pursuing a passion?  Is it volunteering?  Is it to travel more?  No matter what it is, find a way to bring as much of it as you can into your life now.

Add one time per month of playing bridge or mah jongg or golf or tennis or whatever.  Take a short trip more frequently.  Knowing we’d want to travel in retirement, five years before we retired, Ann and I started our own “vacation-of-the-month club.”  No, we didn’t fly off to Hawaii every month.  But we did plan some getaway every month.  We took day trips and long weekends and an occasional longer trip.  

Yes, you have time to bring your future plans into your life today.  Everyone my coauthor, Keith Lawrence, and I have talked to about this concept has found a way to practice retirement.

Why would they want to do so?  There are a number of reasons.  You may actually find out that something you thought would be exciting for you in retirement really isn’t.  Find out early and change your retirement plan, making the transition from your career smoother and more successful.

Practicing retirement, therefore, gives you more confidence in your post-work life plan.  You can take that plan to your financial advisor.  Every financial advisor we’ve talked to has said that they can help clients put together a more meaningful financial plan if the clients know what they want to do when they retire.  Just makes sense.

But here’s the most important reason to practice retirement.  If you are looking forward to the things you are planning to do in retirement because they will be exciting and fulfilling, why not bring them into your life and enjoy them now?  Why wait?